Well-meaning coaches everywhere are telling actors to treat their careers like a business. We’re told to be the “CEO of our own Company”. We’re expected to spend a minimum number of hours working hard at our business. But working towards a bottom line “at all costs” is a prescription for anxiety and depression.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard this term before – holistic marketing – but it fits for me. When I work with actors on their marketing I find that they have a very limited view of it. Most likely, they’ve attended a seminar or webinar bombarding them with lists of things that they MUST DO NOW! Perhaps they’ve listened to a panel of “experts” who more than likely competed with their fellow panelists over who had the best answers. Holistic Marketing is exactly what it sounds like – considering the entire artist. I believe that the best answer always lies within each person. No expert can tell you what is best for you. My job is to shine a light on the artist’s own inner wisdom. I never tell anyone what they must do.
Considering the entire artist involves three areas for me: ACTION, SUPPORT AND PRODUCT. As I mentioned in my recent interview (start 44:56), actors can go anywhere for postcards and mailing services, but they’re not going to get one-on-one guidance providing them with the next best actions. A printer will hand you your postcard order and wish you good luck. They won’t advise you on address lists and schedules. They can’t tell you which photo or message best communicates your essence. Younger actors tend to limit themselves to on-line marketing, while older actors stick to snail mail. And neither group makes strong efforts towards in-person meetings. When an actor is left alone to make marketing decisions, the overwhelm often leads to no decision.
One year ago, the beginning of my downward spiral began. On September 11th, my boyfriend’s father called to say he didn’t have long to live. I drove my boyfriend to the airport, supporting him with strength and optimism. I thought he’d be back in two weeks. Instead, he spent four months tending to his dad’s declining health. From September to January, I drove back and forth from my place to his – over the hill and back – to forward his mail and personal items, water his (now dead) plants, and care for his cat. Kitty’s renal failure required special care. As bad timing would have it, I began to suffer from painful facial eczema that greatly affected my quality of life. My strength and optimism were beginning to wane. Just before Thanksgiving, my computer died. With all my running around I had no time to see friends. I was quite alone, and started to feel it. We decided it was best if I moved in to his place. I felt a sense of relief, but now I was looking at having to purge thirteen years of my life. On New Year’s Eve, I gave my thirty days’ notice, and on January 3rd, my boyfriend’s father died. I had my phone turned off when he tried to call me. Epic Fail.
I jumped on a plane to help with his dad’s funeral, but didn’t expect to help with his mom as well. Dementia was setting in, and now her son had a new reason to stay even longer. Back in L.A., I had to either sell or give away most of my belongings before I could move. It wasn’t until March when I felt I could finally catch up with my business and my life. (Really, there is no “catching up”).
Now six months had passed, and my savings were drained. Commercial auditions were unusually scarce, and theater jobs trickled. I still suffered from the eczema, but could no longer afford a doctor. In May, Kitty was diagnosed with cancer and needed even more care. In June, my theatrical agent went out of business, I had a terrible falling out with a friend, and my dentist informed me that I needed a $1000 crown. July was a very dark month. Then on August on 29th – in the vein of “what else could go wrong?” – my parked car was totaled by a reckless driver.
Don’t’ ask me if I can see that “everything happens for a reason”. That’s a question to occupy the mind, not the heart. Here is what my heart awakened to: Every terrible thing I experienced gave me something concrete to fix/solve, and every single time, it revealed itself as a distraction. Everything distracted me from working on my art and on my business. This is not to say that I place no importance on these outside events. I very much do. What they’ve brought to my attention, however, is my willingness to put my art and my business aside in favor of them. There are no clear outcomes, no guaranteed results in creative endeavors. To do the work for the sake of doing the work is “poo-pooed” in our culture – How can you enjoy (fill in the blank) when (fill in the blank) has happened? Are you making money at it? Are you forwarding your career? These questions are nothing but excuses for not showing up to the canvas. During hard times, it is more acceptable to self medicate in front of the TV than it is to expand ourselves. What we must see is that exercising our talents – with no societal agenda or audience approval – is how we feel better, feel joy, and reap the rewards.
What is that thing you’ve been yearning to do that will expand your talents and put a smile on your face? Are you too busy checking off your to-do list to get down to the real work? Are you doing the work, but repeatedly coming up for air to see if someone is clapping? Expanding our talents is what we are meant to do. It is not selfish. It is mandatory, and it gets us through the hard times.